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IN THE PEACE OF OLD ABYDOS 161
later be ravaged by the merciless brigand of time, but the hard, stone-carved beauty of these pictures seemed to defy aU such theft. What were the secrets of those ancient paint-grinders, whose bright vermilions and clear blues retain their freshness, and why can we not imitate them to-day? The liveliness of the tints was matched by the fine drawing and splendid chiselling of those craftsmen who had once stood and worked where I then stood and thought, and who had pictured on white stone the mysterious life of vanished Egypt. Everywhere one saw representations of the king worshipping the high gods and receiving their blessings in return. In this singular temple, not wholly dedicated to a special deity as usual, several of the gods of ancient Egypt's pantheon received homage. Each had his shrine, each his wall-painting or graven figure included in some religious scene, although Osiris remained supreme among them all. Seven vaulted rooms, formed of large blocks of stone each extending from one architrave to the other, honoured Horus and Isis, Ptah and Harakht, among others.
Isisn great veiled Mother of Wisdom, prefigured in all her maternal tenderness, stretched out her arm and touched the shoulder of the devout Pharaoh. Nearby floated her sacred boat, a lotus-ornamented, elaborate shrine built into its centre; while the friendly waters and obedient winds were ready to bear it away to those paradisaical realms which are the habitats of gods, goddesses, and such humans as these deities descend to bless. Fools, seeing such a picture, wonder how the ancients could be so stupid as to believe these things, these deities who have disappeared completely to-day, and the sacred barques which bore the favoured to heaven. True, the boats were but symbols, part of a sacred language which the dite of the ancient world well understood, but which the modern world scarcely grasps; but the deities themselves were far from fictions. There is room in God's infinite universe for other and higher beings than man, and even though they took various names and forms, at various times, these deities did not change their innate character.
I think, with Plutarch, that: "Not different gods amongst different people, Barbarian or
Grecian; but like the sun, moon, sky, earth, sea, are the common
property of all men but yet are called by different names by different
If, apparently, they have retreated from our vision to-day, 11 their work cannot come to an end. The retreat can be only to